With Bad Bunny at the Helm, Saturday Night Live Leans Hard on Cameos
Well, how about this for a weekend update: During Bad Bunny’s monologue on last night’s Saturday Night Live, Pedro Pascal, wearing an electric blue blazer without a shirt underneath, stopped by to give the Puerto Rican rapper and singer a hand with his English. Later, Mick Jagger appeared mid-telenovela sketch with a black curlicue mustache painted onto his Mt. Rushmore of a face, and gleefully smacked Bad Bunny and Marcello Hernandez upside their heads. Then Lady Gaga showed up speaking Spanish to introduce Bad Bunny’s first number, which is a nice telegraph of a future collaboration.
All I’d imagined going into this episode was a flash of a Kardashian, so as to keep the Are-they?, Aren’t-they? fun alive after last week’s Travis and Taylor cameos. It’s like the show is making up for the loss of last season by giving us multiple random beloved celebrities. Next week, Beyoncé and Tilda Swinton and Roger Federer cameos, please.
The evening quickly dispensed with its cold open, an inevitable sauté of the House of Representatives’ search for leadership. Mikey Day gave good Jim Jordan, coiled like a fist beneath his DMV suit of a man. The sketch seemed promising when Bowen Yang’s George Santos strode into the office holding the mysterious swaddled baby from the scene of his hallway meltdown. Then Chloe Fineman’s Lauren Boebert phoned in from a theater performing Aladdin, but their call was cut short as a hand entered the screen in search of boobie. But the writers must have noticed that when James Austin Johnson entered stage left as Donald Trump, nobody clapped. The man—Trump, obviously, not Johnson—is an energy suck, a fart of spectacle. Let Johnson move on to fewer orange pastures and give the audience a break.
Even beyond his ability to draw cameos, recent VF cover star Bad Bunny turned out to be excellent company. Watching his monologue, even before Pascal slid into view, felt like being on a drip of relaxed charisma. “People are wondering if I could host this show because English is not my first language,” he said. “I don’t know if they know, but I do whatever I want.”
And when Pascal, a sexy shaggy dog next to Bad Bunny’s sleek Doberman, suggested the younger host employ some self-deprecating humor to endear himself to the audience, our Benito looked confused. “Uh, no tiendo. What do you mean?” Arrogance isn’t my thing, but this guy is in on the joke and delivers it with a wink. His fine comedic timing will serve him well in the future.
The show was mostly in Spanish, without subtitles. But the premises of the sketches—16th century explorers trying to impress to his King of Spain with their discoveries from the New World; a telenovela shoot about feuding brothers where Punkie Johnson can’t say her one Spanish line; Marcello Hernandez introducing his gringo girlfriend to his disapproving Mama and Tia, played by Pascal and Bad Bunny—all worked despite and because of any language barrier. Hernandez never had such a good night.
Bad Bunny went from rapping on stage dripping in leather and diamonds right into a nun’s habit for the next sketch. In a riff on Sister Act, Molly Kearney’s Mother Superior had gathered the nuns with word of a man lurking in their midst, intent on deflowering the convent. A very bad Bunny smirked beneath his habit, as the other nuns giggled and gasped over the pleasures of this interloper’s flesh. “You beautiful monster, you sexual king, just admit what you did!” demanded Kearney. And just like that, Jagger swanned back into view, his slink undeterred by his habit. “Fine, I confess!” he pouted happily. “It was me. I was the one who corrupted these poor women with my lips and my…” he paused for a shimmy, “hips, and I was the one who rang the bell with my pen-us.” This was not the night I saw coming, I tell you.
Before I leave, one gripe and one sigh. Had Will Smith been in the audience last night, he would’ve been jumping out of his seat every few minutes. From Yang’s Santos in the cold open (“Girl, I know Jada is crazy”) to Ego Nwodim’s parody of Jada Pinkerton Smith during Weekend Update (“Nothing makes me feel stronger than publicly cucking my millionaire husband”), the jokes felt too much and too mean and ultimately unnecessary. Pinkett Smith’s ubiquity on the press circuit right now is tedious, and she is trapped in clickbait hell. But it feels like we’re just mad at her for not loving America’s former sweetheart like we imagined she should’ve.
The best joke of the evening was also a bummer. “This week, the WNBA finals were won by the New York Liberty,” Michael Che announced as the crowd started cheering. They were immediately cowed: “I’m kidding. Vegas beat ‘em in four, you phonies.” Somebody get on the phone and see if A’ja Wilson is free to make a cameo next week.